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What are the factors behind clean label growth?

Article-What are the factors behind clean label growth?

Carol DeVito from consultancy Nailbiter says it’s an exciting time in the development of food, particularly given consumer savviness and their demand for transparency.

Consumers want to know exactly what they are consuming.

According to one study, the ability to recognise ingredients by name was rated more important than both an ability to tell that a product was high quality, and even taste.1 Artificial colourings and flavourings are immediate red lights to an increasing number of consumers. Transparent and understandable ingredient lists are of growing importance, though concern does vary from country to country. In mature markets like France, the number of consumers reading front and back of pack labels tends to be markedly higher.2

French and Italian consumers attach the most importance to ingredients, according to one European study, with 86% and 89% respectively claiming that the ingredients used are very important.3 It is also notable that parents appear to put greater emphasis on the importance of natural, simple ingredients than non-parents.4 

DeVito added that there tends to be a compromise over products when parent and child go shopping, whereas product choices are different when a parent shops alone. The media has also played a role in shaping consumer perception, with highly publicised food scandals drawing a great deal of attention. The 2013 horsemeat scandal in the UK for example,saw an increase in the importance UK consumers attached to ingredients, with the number of people who believe that the ingredient list is important increasing from 65% to 69% in just two years.6

According to Mintel’s Emma Schofield, interest in ‘flexitarian’ diets and concerns about the planet are also driving consumers towards dairy-free, meat-free plant-based ingredients. The percentage of new product launches with vegan or no-animal claims has risen and in fact outpaced the growth of vegetarian claims, she told the 2018 Health ingredients Europe Conference.

Mintel’s Emma Schofield said:

“Consumers are avoiding not just animal-based ingredients but also ingredients linked to food intolerances and allergies such as wheat and soy.”

At the same time, consumers are proactively looking for specific ingredients that often crosscut with the clean label trend. The overwhelming perception is that food and beverages positioned as being natural or containing natural ingredients are better for you. The European market for plant protein-based products for example is forecast to grow by 7.1% between 2018 and 2023,7 and the phrase ‘plant extract’ has immediate resonance with consumers across Europe.

The perceived benefits of a plant-based diet will continue to drive plant protein as an attractive ingredient, and in turn increase demand for clean labels. Interestingly, specific health and nutrition claims such as ‘added fibre’ rank lower in consumer priorities than clean label positionings.8